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KCC puts ‘community’ into community college

ROSCOMMON – Officials at Kirtland Community College are making sure that the “community” in community college is even more meaningful by reaching out to help those in need through a variety of recent efforts.

College officials, with assistance from its AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Monica Martinez, have already held several events this fall to create awareness about issues such as domestic violence and poverty here in northern Michigan. That includes an “Empty Bowls” fund-raiser Oct. 28 at the Kirtland House conference center, located on the college’s main campus near Roscommon, which has raised more than $2,200.

“This is bringing Kirtland back to the community and the community back to Kirtland in a way that benefits everyone,” said Martinez, who is working in coordination with Kirtland’s Service Learning program.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, Martinez will work to build, support and develop the capacity for Kirtland and its students to be better stewards of the community and to gain richer and more valuable experiences outside the classroom.

The Empty Bowls event was held in coordination the Art Department at Kirtland. Art students made about 270 pinch pots that were put on display throughout the month of October. The bowls were then sold during the silent auction/reception Oct. 28. The proceeds from the auction go to the Grayling-based River House Inc., a domestic violence and homeless shelter serving Crawford, Ogemaw, Roscommon and Oscoda counties.

“This mutualistic type of service learning transcends the textbook and allows learning to involve both theory and practice,” Martinez added.

Nick Holton, a math instructor and Service Learning coordinator at Kirtland, credits Martinez hard work with making the fund-raiser a reality.

“Monica took the Empty Bowls project from dream to reality,” Holton said. “We had talked about doing this for several years and Monica took the concept and made it a smashing success. Without her leadership and organizational skills we would still just be discussing it.”

This fall has been a very busy time for projects like the Empty Bowls fund-raiser. Kirtland was host to a balloon launch Oct. 20 to remember victims of domestic violence and as a way to mark October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” and then held its first annual Poverty Awareness Luncheon on Nov. 11.

“This luncheon was an interactive way for students, staff and faculty to learn about global and local poverty,” Martinez said.

Those attending the luncheon were placed into different income levels to emphasize how some area residents struggle when it comes time to placing food on their family’s table.

“It is both an international and national problem, and I think that at times people forget that,” she added. “Therefore, this luncheon is to remind everyone that poverty is a problem everywhere, and that, together, we can make it history.”

There was also the first annual “Coat Drive for River House” this fall, which collected more than 50 coats to be given to River House clients this winter, as well as the “Make a Difference Day” on Oct. 24. That was to help mark the National Day of Service, with Kirtland students – and later on students from Olivet College – helping to paint office and shelter spaces at the River House shelter in Grayling.

Another endeavor this fall is “Cut it Out,” a national program used to train salon professionals on domestic violence – about the issue itself, as well as the resources available to victims and survivors. Martinez said the program was modified at Kirtland in order to teach the cosmetology students.

According to Martinez, as many as one in three female clients served by a cosmetology student once they graduate could be a victim of domestic violence. Through the program, cosmetology students work with River House to service the shelter’s clients, an effort that ends up as a win-win for all involved.

“The cosmetology students provide the clients with gift certificates to receive the services at the cosmetology lab on campus,” she said. “And, in turn, River House clients have been exposed to Kirtland. Some have since applied and will be future students at Kirtland.”

While this fall has been busy, more events are already in the works. The Careers in Emergency Services Department is hosting a “Giving Tree.” People pick an ornament, which has the name and age of a child on it, from the tree and then furnish a gift for that child. These gifts will go to families that are both residential and non-residential clients of River House.

Martinez and Holton will be teaching a “Volunteers in Community” course during the upcoming winter semester, which begins Jan. 9. Persons may sign up for the class during the regular winter registration Wednesday through Friday, Jan. 6-8.

Last but not least, Martinez said there are plans for an International Service Learning trip to Guatemala in May, during which Kirtland students will travel to the Latin American country for a week to volunteer in local communities and experience the culture there first hand.

Persons interested in contacting Martinez may do so via e-mail by martinem@kirtland.edu or by calling 989-275-5000, extension 349. Or, for details on Kirtland’s Service Learning programs, individuals may contact Holton via e-mail holtonn@kirtland.edu or by calling 275-5000, extension 412.

Currently, about 3,200 students attend a variety of certificate and two-year degree programs at Kirtland’s three locations – the main campus near Roscommon, and the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) in Gaylord and in West Branch – with the college’s service area including all or parts of Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw, Roscommon, Otsego, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Gladwin and Alcona counties, and the surrounding areas.

– Richard Bourland of Prudenville, a student reporter for the Kirtland Zine, the student magazine serving Kirtland Community College, also contributed to this report.